By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
Your opening is a story, I've written before, about what happened and about what kind of case this is. The closing is a different story, not about what happened, but what is about to happen: deliberations and a verdict, hopefully in your favor. It makes little sense to go all the way to closing arguments and then tell the jurors the story of what happened as if they are just putting it together for the first time. Instead, closing arguments should transcend the now-familiar story to focus on impending deliberations and walk jurors through the specifics of the verdicts they're about to render.
But that isn't what happened at the close of the trial of John Edwards, the two-time presidential candidate and general two-timer. Instead, based on transcripts of the arguments, both the government and the Defense appeared to end the case much as it began, with a dramatic recounting of what happened. As this blog goes to press, the jury is now entering its fifth day of deliberations, and that may be a sign that they could have used a little more direction at the conclusion of the case. It brings to mind what I like most about high-profile cases: the opportunity for high-profile lessons. In this post, I'll be taking one more look at the John Edwards trial (probably the last...unless the verdict is really interesting) and drawing out some lessons on the unique function of structure in a closing argument.